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Diabetes type 1: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About diabetes type 1

Type 1 diabetes mellitus is a disorder characterised by the abnormal elevation of blood sugar levels because of deficiency of a hormone called insulin. It leads to a wide array of complications affecting most of the vital organs.

Diabetes type 1: Incidence, age and sex

Type 1 diabetes is usually diagnosed in children and young adults. About 5 to 10 % of all diabetics have type 1 diabetes. There is no sex predilection of this disease.

Signs and symptoms of diabetes type 1: Diagnosis

The most classical symptoms of type 1 diabetes are frequent urination, unusually increased thirst and hunger, weight loss and fatigue. Other features which can point towards a diagnosis are frequent infections, blurred vision, poor wound healing and tingling in the hands and the feet.

The diagnosis of diabetes is confirmed by finding of raised blood sugar levels. An oral glucose tolerance test may be required. Glycosylated haemoglobin or HbA1c is a measure of average blood glucose levels over last three months.

Causes and prevention of diabetes type 1

Diabetes mellitus is caused by the lack of insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by certain cells called beta cells of the pancreas which is responsible for converting sugar into energy needed for daily life. Type 1 diabetes is caused by the auto-immune destruction of these beta cells, in which body’s own immune cells start attacking the pancreas.

Diabetes type 1: Complications

Diabetes mellitus affects almost every part of the body. Patients with diabetes have two to four times higher risk of heart disease and stroke. It is the leading cause of kidney failure as well as blindness. About 2/3rd of patients with diabetes have some form of nerve damage which sometimes leads to lower limb amputations. Other complications associated with this disease are erectile dysfunction, recurrent skin and urinary infections.

A very high blood sugar level can lead to potentially life-threatening acute complications like diabetic ketoacidosis.

Diabetes type 1: Treatment

The mainstay of treatment of type 1 diabetes mellitus is insulin which is essential for survival. Insulin is administered by injection given under the skin. There are newer injection devices which make the task of taking insulin simpler, more convenient and almost painless. Insulin pump is also a very convenient device which provides flexibility with meals. In addition, a regulated and well-balanced diet under the supervision of a nutritionist is of utmost importance. Regular physical exercise which involves at least thirty minutes of aerobic exercise is also important.

Self monitoring of blood glucose with commercially available glucose testing devices is very important to maintain good blood glucose control and also to avoid episodes of low blood glucose or hypoglycaemia.

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